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Killer Radio Frequencies & Loss of Control: In Conversation with Jed McPherson, Writer of Transmissions

TPub have teamed up with rising indie comics writer Jed McPherson to deliver Transmissions, a Cold War-themed espionage comic that’s dripping with subtle pinches of horror. The full-length graphic novel is currently funding on Kickstarter, and we found it to be another suitably twisted tale from the TPub stables. We caught up with creator/writer Jed to discover more about Transmissions origin, influences and how the comic compares and contrasts to Jed’s previous output.

A Place To Hang Your Cape: How did you team up with TPub in bringing Transmissions to life?

Jed McPherson: We met at a con. I was tabling opposite TPub (always an interesting experience) and Neil (Gibson, Transmissions editor) came over and pretty much bought everything on my table. Then he read Deadbeat right in front of me which was a bit nerve-wracking.

He must’ve liked it though cause, at least enough to ask me to pitch story ideas.

AP2HYC: When reading the first issue of Transmissions, I found there to be subtle injections of horror into the dominating espionage motif. Would you agree or disagree?

McPherson: That’s interesting. It wasn’t something that I consciously pursued but now that you mention it, yeah, it’s definitely in there. I mean, any scenario where a character loses control is horrifying. I think with a simple change in perspective – say if we made Paul (the shooter) the POV character it suddenly becomes more of a horror book.

I’m actually writing a prose story based in the world of Transmissions at the moment that we’re going to have as a stretch goal that has horror more front and centre.

AP2HYC: Transmissions packs in elements of Cold War motifs too. Are there any specific works that have inspired Transmissions?

McPherson: I got the idea from an old episode of 99 Percent Invisible about the numbers station. The idea of these strange radio frequencies that no one is quite sure what they are felt like it was fertile ground for a spy story.

I was also reading a lot about the MK Ultra stuff at the time so marrying the numbers station to something a little stranger like mind control felt right.

As far as other stories? I guess John le Carré’s George Smiley series was a big influence. Sasha and Charlie are both conceived to be real people – they’re very pointedly not James Bond. It’s kind of a mash up of Le Carré and Ian Fleming – taking ordinary characters and forcing them into an extraordinary plot.

Maybe I’ll do a sequel one day where we see a Bond-esque super spy doing more grounded procedural stuff/paperwork.

AP2HYC: How might Transmissions differ to your past work?

McPherson: It’s longer? Seriously though, I think it’s a more mature work. And I don’t mean in terms of themes or content. I think I’ve gotten better as a writer since Deadbeat and The Show. It’s more grounded than The Show but then there’s not much that isn’t.

I guess it’s closest to Deadbeat as far as feel. Obviously, it’s a different genre but I’m flexing the same real-world creative muscles here.

AP2HYC: What would you say artist Marco Perugini and colourist Shannon Benion bring to Transmissions?

McPherson: So goddamn much. I’ve been truly lucky to work with such a great art team. Marco’s style has this grounded real world feel to it without being too photo-realistic. It’s obviously comics and it’s stronger for it.

And Shannon’s colouring is just *chef’s kiss*. So much of the style and feel to the book comes from her colouring. She creates so much atmosphere in her colours that sometimes you don’t even need the lettering to tell what’s going on.

AP2HYC: Transmissions packs in a well-tuned, evocative style. Did you give them free reign in visually crafting your story, or were you shooting for this specific look?

McPherson: A mixture. I tend to write a note to the artist at the beginning of a script saying that if they can think of a better way to handle things they should definitely do it. A script should have at least one solution for every problem but it won’t always have the best one. Comics are at their heart a collaboration and I think you need to leave room for your fellow creatives.

But there are things in there that were baked into the script. A lot of the shifting colour palate was called for though Shannon took that idea and ran with it. Again, comics are collaboration.

AP2HYC: What can readers ultimately expect from Transmissions?

McPherson: I mean, it is a TPub book. I’m not saying there’s a twist but maybe…

Also, lots of swearing. Neil tried to get me to take most of it out but Charlie has got a mouth on him.

Will you be tuning into Transmissions on Kickstarter? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara